Volume 58 Number 74 
      Produced: Mon, 16 Aug 2010 09:33:41 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim 
    [Akiva Miller]
"statement of principles" regarding homosexuality 
    [Martin Stern]
Agunot as "victims" 
    [Naomi Graetz]
Chassidic curses 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Deborah Wenger]
Homosexual as a Cantor/Shat"z 
    [Yisrael Medad]
    [Yisrael  Medad]
Partnership Minyan 
    [Leah S.R. Gordon]
Study: Mental health needs of Orthodox Jews not being met 
    [Martin Stern]
Two websites with collections of articles 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Who married Cain? 
    [Scott Spiegler]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Russell J Hendel wrote in MJ 58:72:

> 2. The Talmudic derivations refer to the CONGREGATION OF SPIES (A
> biblical phrase in Num. 13, Num. 14). There were 10 spies  who
> maliciously slandered Israel because of their conservative
> viewpoints (There was too much risk in attacking). ...
> 3. The Talmud learns from the Biblical phrase CONGREGATION OF
> SPIES, that 10 creates a CONGREGATION. But wait a minute. We just
> said that this whole institution is Rabbinic. The use of words to
> infer halacha must be justified by a Sinaitic tradition and this
> can't be the case because the law was not Biblical.
> 4. I would therefore argue that the Rabbis CREATED the concept of
> a MINYAN=10 males, and they also created what the MINYAN=10 males
> allows: saying certain prayers such as Kaddish, Borechu etc. They
> did this to create an atmosphere of importance that 10 males
> constitute a congregation. They created this atmosphere to
> symbolically warn such CONGREGATIONS that what they say if
> slanderous could hurt an entire community. 
> In other words, I view the entire minyan concept and its related
> concepts as a Rabbinic invention to remind men - even a few men -
> even "just 10" - that their words can seriously affect the
> community. In other words, the MINYAN was created to commemorate
> the horrible sin of the spies.

Unfortunately, it seems that Russell -- like many people -- is focusing on the
more public and popular ramifications of a minyan, and has forgotten the more
important and more essential ideas behind it: If one wants to attend minyan in
order to hear Barchu or Kedusha, or to say Kaddish, or even for the Torah
reading, this is all well and good. But the main reason to pray with a minyan,
according to all authorities if I'm not mistaken, is so that one's prayer will
be a Tefila B'Tzibur, a Prayer With The Congregation.

Such a prayer is a powerful one, in many ways. For example, Rav Moshe Feinstein
(in Igros Moshe Orach Chayim 2:27 and 3:7) explains that G-d always "accepts"
and "hears" a prayer said with a minyan, whereas without a minyan this is not

Throughout Torah literature, doing things with a minyan is much more powerful
than without a minyan - whether for bad or for good. For example, the mitzvah of
Kiddush HaShem (Enhancing G-d's Holy Reputation) is categorically different
whether done in the presence of a minyan or not. The authorities discuss various
situations where one must give up one's like for G-d's Sake, and in some cases
(if I'm not mistaken) the presence or absence of a minyan will determine whether
or not the situation rises to that level of importance.

I will grant that the institutions of Kaddish and Barchu are indeed not
Biblical, as Russell points out. But that does not mean that Minyan is not a
Biblical concept. Quite the opposite, as his reference to the spies
demonstrates. If only nine spies had held that view, history might have unfolded
quite differently. Similarly, when our father Abraham was arguing with G-d to
save Sodom, he bargained Him down to "What if ten can be found there?" (Genesis
18:32) - But fewer than ten he did not ask about. [Granted that he was not
talking about ten *Jews*, but given that there was no such category of people
yet, I don't think that's relevant.]

In conclusion, I disagree with Russell's idea that the whole concept of Minyan
is Rabbinic. Rather, it has even Biblical force.

Akiva Miller


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: "statement of principles" regarding homosexuality

In his response to Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...> (MJ 58#72), Avraham
Walfish <rawalfish@...> wrote (MJ 58#73):

> We'll save discussion of Resh Lakish's purported homosexuality - that in my
> opinion is a red herring - for another occasion.

This was something about which I had also wanted to challenge Russell. AFAIK
there is no mention of Resh Lakish having homosexual inclinations, only that
he had been a gladiator and a highway robber before his famous encounter
with Rabbi Yochanan. Perhaps Russell is aware of some obscure midrash that
hints to it and, if so, perhaps he could elaborate.

Martin Stern


From: Naomi Graetz <graetz@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Agunot as "victims"

David Tzohar (MJ 58#68) wrote that: 

> The one who made agunot 'victims' is no other than Hashem yitbarach shemo
> la'ad (Gd may his name be forever praised) who revealed the written and
> oral Torah to Moshe on Sinai.
I agree with Ben Katz (MJ 58 # 71)  who writes: 

> I take strong exception to Mr. Tzohar's claim, above.  God didn't make
> anybody an  agunah.  Our inability to correctly apply God's laws are what
> make agunot

and with Meir Shinnar's moving statement (MJ 58 # 71)  in which he writes: 

> it is a grievous sin to blame Hashem for the sins of the people - and a
> bigger sin to not do all one can to relieve the suffering of the agunot.

I would go further, for I believe that this is a hillul hashem (desecration of
God's  name) to say what David Tzohar does. It is the rabbis of today who by
their  refusal to solve this problem are party to the perpetuation of the
tragedy of aginut.  It is well-documented that in earlier generations, our
rabbis were so lenient that they accepted the testimony of one witness (rather
than two), a child, a woman (even the wife) rather than allow her to remain an
agunah, so that she could get on with her life (see the discussion in Yevamot

In the mishnah of Yevamot 16.7 there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi
Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua who say "They must not allow a woman to be remarried on
the evidence of a single witness"  and Rabbi Akiva who says "Neither on the
testimony of a woman, nor of a slave nor of a bondwoman, nor of relatives". 

There was an excellent d'var torah on last week's parasha available at 
<EPORTION-L@...> that  deals directly with this topic. I highly
recommend it. What is "sad" is that the great mitzvah of "matir assurim"
(freeing prisoners) which in the past lead to kulot (leniencies) are today being
replaced by a tendency to humrot (stringencies). 

Kol tuv, 



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Chassidic curses

Jeanette  Friedman  (MJ 58#72) wrote:

> The Minchas Elazar ... and Reb Yoeli, the Satmar Rebbe, once cursed each other
> over the grave of the Dinever Rebbe, and as a result, legend has it neither of
> them had sons.

I heard a slightly different version that the Minchas Elazar cursed the
Satmar Rebbe that he would not have a son to succeed him and this was what
happened though he was succeeded by other members of the family. The Satmar
Rebbe cursed the Minchas Elazar that his sons would become Zionists which,
though he did not have a son, was fulfilled in his descendants. As far as
the Minchas Elazar was concerned this was probably a much worse outcome, as
Jeanette will, no doubt, confirm.

Martin Stern


From: Deborah Wenger <debwenger@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Converts

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 58#73):

> A convert is considered as being equivalent to a new born baby and any
> past lifestyle is irrelevant. While, among ignorant people, there may be
> some prejudice against them, this is contrary to the Torah which tells us
> on many occasions that a convert and a born Jew are completely equal in
> its eyes.

If that is the case, why do some organizations - National Council of Young
Israel, for one - prohibit converts from becoming shul rabbis or shul
presidents? If, as Martin (correctly, IMHO) states, a convert and a born Jew are
equal, why should a convert who has achieved a level of learning that qualifies
him to be a rabbi be prohibited from being one in a shul? Wouldn't this be
contrary to treating the convert equally, not to mention bringing up his past,
which is also prohibited?

Deborah Wenger


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Homosexual as a Cantor/Shat"z

Martin wrote at Volume 58 Number 73:
> the conditions for being a shliach tzibbur [prayer leader] on the High Holy
> Days were, if anything, more stringent than for the rest of the year. One
> condition, if I am not much mistaken, is that he be married and have young
> children, something that most homosexuals will find difficult to satisfy.
Well, just to test the waters, my friend's son is a homosexual, he is
married to his partner and they have a child from India, from a woman
impregnated by one of them.
Now what?
Has he passed that test?
Well, the Rama adds at Para. 581:1 that the Chazan should be hagun
(fair, moderate, considerate, proper), great in Torah and deeds, and
should be 30 years old at least and married.  No children necessary.
But the most important element, which trumps all the foregoing, is that
he should be acceptable to the congregation.
I repeat, now what?  Is a homosexual theoretically acceptable if the
congregation accepts him?


From: Yisrael  Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Innovations

Bernard Raab wrote in
Volume 58 Number 73 that:-
> In the early 20th century the well-established and widely accepted halacha
> was that it was simply not permitted to teach Torah to women.
I am not sure that that reality could be described as "Halacha" or even
"Minhag". It was a social Rabbinic norm of some sort and I would ask others on the
list to suggest a term of definition.


From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Partnership Minyan

In M.J vol. 58 #73, Mordechai Horowitz replies to me:

>Leah writes (MJ 58#50):

>> So, it is hard to know where a movement will lead.  My feeling is that
>> there is such an important impetus to Partnership Minyanim, i.e. women's
>> spiritual inclusion, that it is worth trying, with full love of Hashem
>> and devotion to Torah Judaism.

> But you already answered the question when you said you think its a fools'
> errand to follow Orthodox halacha.

Absolutely not what I said.  I said that it is a fool's errand to seek
"legitimacy" from the Orthodox world at this point.  I.e. people like you
would never accept us, or our poskim.  We are committed to following
Orthodox halakha, and I don't personally feel the need to prove it to anyone
else.  (My comrades do, however, and that is another discussion, i.e. the
seeking of Orthodox membership in the world, who is a posek, etc.)

> Leah also wrote:

>> Others continue to rail against Orthodox women's tefila groups, and
>> those continue to attract/educate some of the most Orthodox women around.

> No they don't.  I doubt we have one in the entire state of Florida where
> I live associated with an Orthodox shul.  Women at the Wall's leader is ...

Perhaps a Floridian can comment further, but I would ask, what kind of shul in
the world are the FL Orthodox women's tefila groups associated with, if not

> I haven't read the Torah from the Bimah since my Bar Mitzvah and while
> it's on my list of things I'd like to learn getting my Talmud skills up 
> to par is more important.
> Don't focus on the public reading which is virtually meaningless and ask
> yourself if you understand what's being read. Are you comfortable learning ...

With all due respect, just because something is not important to *you* does
not mean that it isn't important to other people.  Please don't patronize me
about what I do or do not "understand".  It's easy for you to say you don't
care about something that you are allowed by your culture to do, even
encouraged to do.

> It would be much better if we men adopted more of the womens practices.
> Tomorrow night I'll be cooking Shabbos dinner because my wife just can't
> do it after a full day of work and then fighting our toddlers to have dinner 
> and go to bed.

I think we live in vastly different worlds, if you feel it notable that you
are making dinner.

> Preparing for Shabbos by cooking is just as much a part of Torah
> spirituality as the Mincha and Maariv services I'll be davening in shul
> (not as the leader) beforehand.

Then I'm glad you have a chance to fulfill your spiritual needs; please do
not attempt to deny that experience to other people.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Study: Mental health needs of Orthodox Jews not being met

Frank Silbermann wrote (MJ 58#71):

> I think the biggest obstacle to the treatment of mental illness is the way
> marriages are brokered in the Haredi community.  The parents first vet the
> family background of the candidate before the children even meet.  So it is
> very easy to devalue candidates because of mental illness in the family, when
> parents can easily ask the shadchen, "Who else do you have?"

I think Frank is generalising a bit too much. While it is undoubtedly the
case that too many parents are put off by isolated cases of mental illness
in a family, but where there are several cases it might suggest some
hereditary tendency. In that case, it would make sense to ask for further
information. Would he wish to risk one of his children getting married to
someone who later developed a serious personality disorder or have children
similarly afflicted.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 2,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Two websites with collections of articles

1. http://www.lookstein.org/library.php#Articles

This contains about 500 articles, many not otherwise available for free on
the Internet,  on Halacha and other subjects,. For instance:


Most have been collected in the past but a few are still being added, like
this one:


2.   The  Leiman Library of Rabbi Dr. Shnayer Leiman in Far Rockaway, who is
a professor in the department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College - New
York and visiting professor at Yeshiva University. (He has semicha from the
Mirrer Yeshiva and a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania)


There are a little more than 100 articles that he wrote and published in
various places over the past 40 or so years. There are also other things on
the website including some tapes of lectures.

Here is an article on Devorim 33:2 where he argues that the true meaning of
Aish Dos is a a flying fire - the word Dos meaning it flew (same root as
Devorim 28:49) and the pshat was understood correctly as late as Rabbi Pinchas
b. Jacob Ha-Kohen of Kafra (second half of the 8th century c.e.) He also
notes some similar grammatical forms with some other words. he also says
there were two drashes which changed the meaning of a word, but only this
one was accepted.


Some other things by him can be found elsewhere.

Here is an unfavorable review of the new Encyclopedia Judaica



From: Scott Spiegler <scottspiegler@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Who married Cain?

I was having a discussion with a friend about the problem of who married
Cain. I read somewhere that Cain and Abel each had a twin sister, and so
each married the other twin. Whether or not that posed genetic problems, it
seems to me that that answer only begs the question of who married Cain's
children and so forth.

I would be interested in hearing some discussion about this dilemma and how
Chazal provides solution(s).

Shavua tov, Scott


End of Volume 58 Issue 74